Where growing, making & good living come together

No Spend November

Posted by on Thursday 7 November 2013 in anti-consumerism | 1 comment

grey-pj-purse-smallI feel like I’ve been a spendy-spendy lately so am having a “No Spend November“.

Well, it’s not no spend because I still need to buy food for us (and the animals), and to pay for transport and stuff related to things I’ve already committed to (a gig and some courses), but “no more frivolous spending November” wasn’t quite so catchy ;)

I’ve not been going crazy with my spending but over the last few months, I’ve bought some (mostly charity shop/ebay-ed) clothes when I’ve not really needed them and have indulged a little too much in craft tools & supplies and books – and that all adds up. I thought it might be nice to pull back a bit and try to reset my spending gland.

If I have to buy something, I will but I’m doing a few things to hopefully make the whole “no spend” thing as painfree as possible.

Firstly, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year – NaNoWriMo has a habit of distracting me from everything else in my life, so I have less idle eBay/Ravelry/Pinterest browsing time. It also means I craft and read less so should not be quite so tempted to start new projects, or discover new books that I MUST READ NOW.

Speaking of those books, I’m going to remove my credit card from Paypal and Amazon again. They’re weak spots for me – with a saved credit card on file, it’s all too easy to buy inconsequential stuff – a £2 book or some sewing trimmings – without much thought. I need to stop that.

Next, I’m also going to take the opportunity to unsubscribe from a few of those ever-so-tempting shop newsletters before they begin their Christmas/New Year Sales onslaughts. I’ve already unsubscribed from a couple of email circulars but I definitely should unsubscribe from the handful of paper ones I receive as well.

Finally, I’m going to go out without my purse more often – just take the money I need for bus fare. I’ve started doing that when I go swimming – just taking my pre-paid card and £1 for my locker deposit, and it’s removed the temptation to go to the supermarket on the way home for a sweet reward. I think I might do the same for my weekly classes too, to remove the temptation of popping into charity shops while I’m nearby (mmm, nearby charity shops).

So that’s the plan – we’re seven days in of course, but I’ve stuck to it so far. Hope I can stick it out for the whole month!

Have you had any periods of deliberately not spending recently? Do you have any more tips to avoid temptation?

Read More

An example of extreme minimalism?

Posted by on Thursday 26 January 2012 in anti-consumerism, decluttering | 12 comments

Last week, my t’other half John sent me a link to a quite old article by a guy who has pared down his possessions to just “15 things”.

(John came across the article on a geeky news-sharing site and the discussion on there is more interesting than the comments on the blog itself – albeit a lot more longwinded/bitchy now than when I first looked at it last week.)

There are a few people pointing out that he’s not got 15 things – one thing is a “toiletry kit” and he also says he has “couple things not on the list – like socks and underwear – that [he] can easily replace and could not resell for any value” but the exact number is unimportant really because the main point is that, as he says, he’s gone from an overconsumer to a extreme minimalist, who spends his days “traveling, living a pretty simple life”.

What stood out from his list of things (as it stood in May last year) is how nearly everything is listed by brand: from his “Arc’teryx Miura 30 backpack” and “NAU shirt” to his “iPhone 3GS” and “Macbook Air”. Perhaps he’s making a point about having few good quality items (I don’t know if that backpack and shirt are good quality but the backpack costs £120 and the cotton shirts £75+) and just because you’re minimalist doesn’t mean you have to be frugal, but it smacks to me of brand fetishism. (He posted an update last week after the new round of attention and now has 39 things – his phone has been upgraded, we know the make of his new laptop bag and the £75+ shirt is no more.)

Other people on geeky discussion board point out that by while he doesn’t own as much stuff – like pans & cutlery, furniture or bedsheets – as most of us do, he’s using his money and/or goodwill to temporarily rent those things (at restaurants or hotels) – or outsourcing the renting/ownership of those things to friends he’s staying with. A few years ago, a friend of ours was living in a fully furnished rented flat – which included everything from his bed to the cutlery in the kitchen drawers: he didn’t technically own that stuff but he was able to make full use of it, much like this guy making full use of his friends’ sofas and household appliances. I’m also reminded about our friend of a friend who throws his change in the bin — he also used to buy CDs, rip them to his laptop then throw them in the bin too: he still “owned” the music just not the physical medium.

There are obviously lots of definition arguments too about what is minimalism & what is a simple life and I guess I do have to give the guy some props for actually changing his life around, but it seems to me that his life still seems as defined by “stuff” as it was back in the day. It also reminds me of what I’ve said before about people going extreme to compensate for previous behaviour – the hair shirt to atone for your sins – which I personally don’t think is a good idea.

Oh I didn’t mean to spend so much time waffling and being negative! I just wanted to introduce the article to you guys, to see what you thought about it. I know a lot of people who read this blog are frugal, just-in-case hoarders but also have a lot of stuff to allow off-grid/”self-sufficient” activities (even just less extreme stuff like making our own food from scratch), so in many ways, we’re the opposite of Mr 15 Things while still living “pretty simple lives” — and that’s why I’m especially interested in what you have to say!

Have you heard about this guy or anyone else living an “extreme minimalist” lifestyle? What do you think about it? Do you think they serve as inspiring examples for the rest of us clutterers?

Read More

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011 challenge – end of year update

Posted by on Tuesday 3 January 2012 in anti-consumerism, frugal, less than 12 clothes challenge, low spend 11 | 10 comments

This morning I tweeted that I think it’s going to take me most of 2012 to catch up on all my leftover stuff from 2011 – and this is one of those things!

The Challenge

Last year, I set myself the challenge of buying no more than 12 items of clothing in 2011 – and I invited other people to join me. A good number of people signed up (or committed themselves to similar goals).

What I bought

I went until July (which was a full nine months since I’d bought any new clothes) before buying anything then raced up to 11 things by October!

I bought:

  • 1 x a woolly hoodie jumper from a charity shop
  • 4 x jeans from eBay (mostly replacements for old ones falling apart – I wear jeans all day, every day)
  • 1 x light cardigan from a high street store
  • 2 x t-shirts from Threadless
  • 2 x long-sleeved tops from a high street store
  • 1 x a cord jacket from a charity shop

I can’t tell you how many things I watched on eBay, or added to basket on other online shops, or considered at in-person shops – it was a LOT but I only bought those 11 things. By and large, I thought a lot more carefully about what I was buying because I didn’t want to go over my limit. That said: I still made impulse buys and mistakes. I love the cord jacket I got in October but that was a mistake: I’d spent most of the year trying to find the perfect spring/autumn jacket on eBay but then impulse bought the jacket at a charity shop even though it didn’t have a hood (which was a key thing for me) — I’ve been rained on so many times since then! The biggest mistake though was the Threadless t-shirts I bought in September – I’ve had t-shirts from there before and they’ve been decent quality; this batch though are awful — incorrectly sized, shoddy fabric, poor stitching = unwearable. It really annoys me that I wasted two of my quota on them! GRRR!

(The jacket, with the reason I keep getting rained on asleep in the background ;) )

Lessons learnt

Read More

Declutter November – final things and thoughts

Posted by on Thursday 1 December 2011 in decluttering | 2 comments

After personally getting rid of bags full of clothes, craft supplies, a broken bucket and many books in the last four weeks, our little Declutter November challenge has come to an end.

My last three items for this last half week have been: a time-sensitive book from 2000 (so well out of date now), three VHS videos (saved from our main video clearouts because they’re a bit obscure from my film-student days, but we haven’t had a VHS player for years and years, so it doesn’t matter how obscure they are, I can’t play them) and a cardigan that I thought had gone in a much earlier clothes clearout.

My plan with the challenge was to get into the habit of seeing things and asking myself “do we still need, or even just want, that?” – and while I haven’t quite done it every day as intended (NaNoWriMo distracted me), I think I have done it enough to start looking at things in a new light. Some things were obvious contenders but some days I had to seek out something that needed to go – but as I said at the end of week 3, as soon as I picked something, I didn’t wobbly about it – I think I’d been blind to them then as soon as I saw them in a “I could get rid of that” light, it made perfect sense.

In some ways, it doesn’t feel like I’ve got rid of that much stuff – lots of little things. A few small bags of beads here, a handful of books there – but it does add up. We’ve got eight bin-bags and two carrier bags of clothes to go to the charity shop, plus two cardboard (banana) boxes of books and misc. We’ve got rid of three old computers (for their collectable-ness rather than their function) and a small bookshelf will go to the furniture charity shop next time we’re out that way. A few things have gone to/gone back to my mum and John’s dad, and a big box of misc has gone in the bin (thankfully it was mostly papers/card so it could be recycling/composting, very little has gone to landfill). Looking at it like that, that’s quite a lot of stuff out of the house! And it sounds like many of you have had similarly cleansing experiences — I’ve read all the comments, blog posts and tweets, and it sounds like an awful lot of packed charity/thrift/op shops have been getting stock boosts over the last few weeks!

I’ve also found stuff I’d forgotten about/lost and shifted lots of stuff from high concentration area to more out of the way locations (for example, our spare crockery and preserving jars now live in the porch/garage) so I’ve gained even more space.

All in all, I’ve very glad I did the challenge and am tempted to have another focused month next spring.

How has your decluttering gone? Any particularly noteworthy items that have gone bye-bye? Anything you found hard to let go – but you were glad about once it was gone?

Read More

Declutter November – end of week 4

Posted by on Monday 28 November 2011 in decluttering | 3 comments

No pictures this week because first my camera battery died mid-photo session and now my computer isn’t recognising the memory card. Sigh. Just imagine pics of assorted junk ;)

This week, I got rid of:

  • Big Blue Dog – one of those “oh so soft!” impulse buys at Ikea nearly a decade ago. Deserves a more loving home (and a wash first).
  • A freebie baseball cap from a geek conference
  • A mirror I (charity shop-)bought just before we moved here but never even took out the bag
  • Another old work diary, really no idea why I keep these
  • Two books – one from my women’s studies book stash and one on artists using recycling materials that was given to me but I never looked in because that’s what I use the internet for
  • A stack of papers, which became kindling for last night’s stove
  • A box of misc rubbish – really random stuff from a card from colleagues I barely knew when I left my job five years ago to old mobile phone packaging and lots of tiny bits and bobs including a bottle of artificial vanilla-scented oil burner oil which had leaked everywhere and gave me a headache for the rest of my tidying mission.

It was all from our spare room, which has just been a dumping ground for miscellanea since we moved in. This sorting got rid of two cardboard boxes from up there too.

Declutter November mini-challenge week 4: your hobby/craft stash

And then there was the painful craft stash reduction. I cleared out:

  • Three pairs of knitting needles – a 10mm set, a 5mm and an about 6mm set which has lost their ends. Oh and one half of a broken needle. (…?) (Mum: I’ll put these in my box of stuff for you in case you want these. The pairs, not the broken bit.)
  • Two balls of turquoise acrylic yarn. I’m gradually getting rid of all my 100% acrylic yarn – I bought a lot of it when I first started knitting again but don’t like using it now.
  • Some candle sand – I wasn’t sure whether this was really a craft stash item but I found it in one of my craft stash boxes so I’m including it ;)
  • Four vintage pillow case – bought for the fabric but I have nicer ones I’m not doing anything with so chances are these won’t get used any time soon.
  • A couple of metres of blue polyester. Left over from an old project. A project from 1999.

In my sorting, I also found some things I forgotten/didn’t know I had:

  • A ten pack of wool-heavy green yarn, which I think was 100g a ball, away from the rest of my wool in a drawer.
  • Two BNWT bras and a hoodie
  • Two cute little fabric handbags
  • A script for a play I performed once – and one that just this week I looked into buying again so see if it would be suitable for using with my drama group. Answer: no. Finding that script saved me £8!

So my decluttering this week has actually saved me money and provided me with “new” things to enjoy!

Just a couple of days left now – I’m hoping to get rid of a couple of big things since most of the other stuff has been quite small…

What have you got rid of this week? How did the hobby stash declutter go?

Read More

Declutter November mini-challenge week 4: your hobby/craft stash

Posted by on Monday 21 November 2011 in decluttering | 7 comments

Ah, you knew this one was coming, didn’t you? ;)

I’ve also deliberately left it ’til last as I imagine most people will have dipped into their hobby stashes already – hopefully though having a focused look at it will help everyone (and me especially!) prune further: get rid of extra five things (or sets of things), in addition to your normal one a day.

The original idea for this was “declutter your craft stash” but I know that not everyone is crafty so I’ve expanded it to being whatever you hoard for your hobby. I’m assuming everyone taking part in the challenge hoards some stuff – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be needing to declutter ;)

For me, I’m going to look at my yarn stash and my fabric stash, and at my books yet again because I always can prune them further. My t’other half John doesn’t craft but he hoards (or certainly did in the past) computer related stuff so I’d imagine he could find five things to get rid of there, and he’s a reader too so I’m sure he could find a few books he wouldn’t read again.

So whatever your poison – be it cooking, a craft, a sport, a game, a performance art or collecting something – have a look through your tools/equipment, your materials stash, your collection or whatever, and see what can go.

Think about what no longer any use to you – clear some space and maybe even pass it on to someone just starting out in your favourite pursuit!

Read More